Registration: Crash Course Fieldwork: How to deal with mess in field research - all

Room: Universitätsstr. 104, 2nd floor, room 201/202
Time: 09:00 – 17:00 h
Trainer: Markus Rudolfi, Chair of Cultural Psychology and Anthropology of Knowledge RUB
Language: English
Participants: max. 20 persons
Credit Points: acknowledged with 0,75 CP for the research-related training of RUB-RS Certificate


Course Summary

Due to the unpredictable and ‘messy’ reality of research fields, it frequently happens that your well-planned research agenda does not come even close to realization. This course offers a "hands-on" introduction to the practicalities of fieldwork; to all that, which you rarely find in methods books, but which however is central for your fieldwork to be efficient and to succeed. Regardless if you are an economist, a biologist or from any other discipline. It teaches you to understand and handle data in context.


We will discuss and train relevant techniques, about gaining and negotiating field access, about how to transform data-in-the-field to research data, about how to deal with the unforeseeable realities of fieldwork, about when and how to document your data collection, about different ways of interacting with and positioning oneself vis a vis interlocutors, or about how to make sense of the gathered data after the visit.


Course Description

Imagine you find yourself in a big city in a foreign country, or in a small village in the mountains. Your research is all planned and set from home. But now, the bus doesn’t go, the people don’t speak the official language, and the appointments you made from home, do not seem to materialize. For such cases, no handbook will serve you as a good companion that shows you the tricks for dealing with such unforeseeable situations. However, by being aware of the possibilities that such disconcerting moments may be faced wherever you conduct fieldwork, it is possible to learn to manage such situations well.


This course introduces participants from different disciplinary backgrounds to the theoretical and practical basics of fieldwork. Across disciplines, researchers encounter similar challenges of how to navigate unknown social, discursive and material contexts. Drawing on the experiences of several generations of fieldwork, the course will provide practical advice and hands-on training through exemplary case studies that efficiently prepare for the challenges of diverse potential events and crises before, during and after the field visit.


The course is open to scholars preparing for all kinds of fieldwork, be it the monitoring of insects, observations in schools, interviews with legal officers, document analysis with NGOs or other. The aim is to prepare students for a field visit and train their sensitivity for conducting and managing fieldwork. This happens through discussions about possible techniques for getting access to respective field sites, for controlling one’s own way of interacting with people in the field, for becoming aware of the complex situations in which note taking is important, for framing the contexts in which data is being gathered, or for how to process and check the quality of your data once you "got" it.


Recommended literature:

Okely, J. (2007). Fieldwork Embodied. The Sociological Review, 55(1_suppl), 65–79.


Map to find the room:



Markus Rudolfi holds a BA in sociology (major) and psychology and an MA in sociology. He is researcher at the chair of Cultural Psychology and Anthropology of Knowledge in the Faculty of Sociology of RUB and currently coordinator of the Ruhr University Science & Technology Studies Laboratory (RUSTlab).

Date: 21.–22.10.2019

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